This was originally posted by Brenda Norrell at http://bsnorrell.blogspot.com/
DOODA (NO) DESERT ROCK COMMITTEE
Elouise Brown, President
P.O. Box 7838
Newcomb, Navajo Nation
(New Mexico) 87455
February 13, 2009
The Honorable Jeff Bingaman
United States Senate
703 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
Dear Senator Bingaman:
There is an essay about the proposed Desert Rock power plant in the February 12, 2009 issue of High Country News, Laura Paskus, It’s time to abandon Desert Rock. I write to you because the essay says that you support the plant. More specifically, it says that you have a reputation for supporting “green” initiatives, “But when it comes to Desert Rock, Bingaman demurs, saying he has no control over a coal plant destined for sovereign soil.” When Ron Curry, New Mexico’s Environment Department Secretary, testified on EPA approval of new power plants on November 8, 2007, he pointed out that conditions in New Mexico are such that there cannot be any new power plant unless it is subject to “Best Available Control Technology.” Curry was immediately accused of interfering with Navajo Nation sovereignty.
I am concerned about sovereignty and our freedoms as Navajos under the Treaty of 1868. However I am even more concerned about our health. When the URS corporation wrote the proposed environmental impact statement for the power plant it stated that “a review of the available literature has not found that the communities in the vicinity of the proposed plant have higher susceptibility to particulate matter emissions than other populations in the United States because asthma rates in New Mexico are not significantly different than for other populations in the United States.” Nova Blazej, the Manager of the Region IX Environmental Office of the EPA, wrote to an official in the Navajo Regional Office of the Bureau of Indian Affairs to correct errors and omissions in the URS report. It ignored a July 2006 U.S. Geological Survey study that showed that people who live in Shiprock are more than five times as likely to get treatment for respiratory complaints than other residents of the area. The U.S.G.S. study also found that Shiprock residents under age 5 and over 56 are more than twice as likely to get treatment than the others. http://pubs.usgs.gov/fs/2006/3094/fs2006-3094_eng.pdf
On January 24, 2008 I wrote to the Navajo Regional Office to point out that URS did not follow a major guideline required by environmental justice standards by getting health data on those who would be subjected to air pollution from a third major power plant in our area. The victimization of Shiprock Navajos is being ignored, and we do not think that it is a proper act of a sovereign to subject its own people to health risks. The Navajo Nation Air Pollution Prevention and Control Act closely tracks the federal Clean Air Act, but the federal government has ignored the fact that green house gases are pollutants for years. Now that we have a responsible administration that is asking for public input on that, we are going to participate.
Senator, it is understandable that — given the Navajo vote — you are hesitant to take a strong position on Desert Rock. We represent Navajos who vote for progressive candidates, and tell you that sovereignty has nothing to do with how our government is ignoring our interests. It has more to do with greed and being controlled by Mr. Rudy Giuliani’s law firm.